Mar 29 -- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA or the Agency) is proposing a regulation to revise the technology-based effluent limitations guidelines and standards (ELGs) for the steam electric power generating point source category applicable to flue gas desulfurization (FGD) wastewater, bottom ash (BA) transport water, and combustion residual leachate (CRL) at existing sources. EPA is also soliciting comment on ELGs for legacy wastewater. This proposal is estimated to cost $200 million dollars annually in social costs and reduce pollutant discharges by approximately 584 million pounds per year. Comments on this proposal must be received on or before May 30, 2023. EPA will conduct two online public hearings about this proposed rule on April 20, 2023, and April 25, 2023.
EPA is proposing new regulations that apply to wastewater discharges from steam electric power plants, particularly coal-fired power plants. These plants are increasingly aging and uncompetitive sources of electric power in many portions of the United States and are subject to several environmental regulations designed to control (and in some cases eliminate) air, water, and land pollution over time. One of these regulations, the Steam Electric Power Generating Effluent Limitations Guidelines—or steam electric ELGs—was promulgated in 2015 (80 FR 67838; November 3, 2015) and revised in 2020 (85 FR 64650; October 13, 2020). The 2015 and 2020 rules apply to the subset of the electric power industry where “generation of electricity is the predominant source of revenue or principal reason for operation, and whose generation of electricity results primarily from a process utilizing fossil-type fuel (coal, oil, gas), fuel derived from fossil fuel (e.g., petroleum coke, synthesis gas), or nuclear fuel in conjunction with a thermal cycle employing the steam-water system as the thermodynamic medium” (40 CFR 423.10). The 2015 rule addressed discharges from FGD wastewater, fly ash (FA) transport water, BA transport water, flue gas mercury control (FGMC) wastewater, gasification wastewater, CRL, legacy wastewater, and nonchemical metal cleaning wastes. The 2020 rule modified the 2015 requirements for FGD wastewater and BA transport water for existing sources only. The 2015 limitations for CRL from existing sources and legacy wastewater were vacated by the United States (U.S.) Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Southwestern Electric Power Co., et al. v. EPA, 920 F.3d 999 (5th Cir. 2019).
In the years since EPA revised the steam electric ELGs in 2015 and 2020, pilot testing and full-scale use of various, more stringent compliance technologies have continued to expand. This proposal, if finalized, would revise requirements for discharges associated with the two wastestreams addressed in the 2020 rule: BA transport water and FGD wastewater at existing sources. The proposal would also address the 2015 rule CRL requirements that were vacated. Finally, while EPA is proposing technology-based limitations determined by permitting authorities on a site-specific basis using their best professional judgment (BPJ), an option discussed by the Court in Southwestern Electric Power Co. v. EPA. . . .
Costs, Economic Achievability, and Other Economic Impacts: EPA evaluated the costs and associated impacts of the four regulatory options on existing EGUs at steam electric plants. These costs are analyzed within the context of existing environmental regulations, market conditions, and other trends that have affected steam electric plant profitability and generation, as described in Section V.B of this preamble. This section provides an overview of the methodology EPA used to assess the costs and the economic impacts and summarizes the results of these analyses. . . .
EPA assessed the economic impacts of this proposed rule in two ways: (1) a screening-level assessment of the cost impacts on existing EGUs at steam electric plants and the entities that own those plants, based on comparison of costs to revenue and (2) an assessment of the impacts within the context of the broader electricity market, which includes an assessment of changes in predicted plant closures attributable to the proposed rule. The following sections summarize the results of these analyses. The RIA discusses the methods and results in greater detail. . . .